St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church mission is to fulfill the spiritual and social needs of the Syro Malabar Catholic Community by offering Mass, Catechism, Administration of Sacraments, Retreats and Solemn Celebration of the Church Feast. We aim to achieve the spiritual and societal growth of the community in the deep-rooted Christian values.
St. Thomas, the Apostle, brought the Word of God to the ancient land of India shortly after Jesus Christ’s death and ressurection. It is believed that he landed in the South-Western coastal town of Musiris, which is presently called Kodungalloor, Kerala, in the year 52 A.D. After two decades of evangelisation he was martyred at Chinamalai, Mylapore, near Chennai, in 72 A.D.
“The Syro Malabar Church is an Oriental (Eastern Rite) Catholic church, in full communion with the Church of Rome. The term Syro Malabar is a reference to the East syrian (Chaldean) tradition the church has followed and to the Malabar Coast where St Thomas the Apostle landed. Firm devotion, indomitable faith, deep-rooted spirituality, and rich tradition make the Syro Malabar church markedly special and vividly alive, making it an integral part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”
History of Little Mount Syro Malabar community:
Mountains are the places of God experience and divine interventions. Jesus went to the mountains to spent his private time with his Father. St.Thomas the Apostle, during his sojourn in India chose mountains for his prayers and Holy Eucharist.
Little Mount (Chinnamala) in Chennai has got a prominent place among these. It is here in Little Mount, the seed of Syro Malabar church’s mission in Chennai was sown and grown. Rev. Fr Jose Palatty began the Syro Malabar Mission in Little Mount on the 14th December 1983, when Rev. Fr.P.J.Kurian was the Parish Priest of Our Lady of Health Church, Little Mount. Later the mission center was shifted to Ayanavaram.
In 1994, at the time of Rev. Fr Thomas Menachery’s chaplaincy we got the permission from the then parish priest Rev. Fr.Paul Moozvariyett to offer Sunday Holy Mass. Later on from 2006 January onwards we started celebrating Sunday Mass. The Present Parish Priest Rev.Fr.M Arulraj and the community have been extending their helping and supporting hands to us. Rev Fr Jose Ambooken, Rev. Fr.Thomas Kannampilly, and Rev.Fr.Anto Karippai were the Priests in charge of Little Mount in 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively.
Rev. Sisters from Holy Family Convent, Kilkattalai assisted us for Sunday Mass and all other parish activities. On 21st December 2008, by THE DECREE OF ERECTION OF TEN PARISHES IN THE ARCHDIOCSE OF MADRAS – MYLAPORE FOR THE PASTORAL CARE OF THE SYRO MALABAR (RITE) FAITHFUL, of Archbishop most Rev.Dr.A.M.Chinnappa Sdb. Our community was raised to the level of a canonical Parish namely St.Thomas Syro Malabar Parish, Little Mount. This Parish includes the boundaries of Little Mount, Guindy, Velachery, Adambakkam, Adayar, Besant Nagar, Taramani etc. From (1st February 2009) we have got a new residential parish Priest Rev. Fr.Jaison Vadakumchery. From 2009 July onwards Holy Mass timing was shifted from 6.30pm to 10.00am for the convenience of Sunday Catechism and youth meetings. Rev Brother from Poonamallee Sacred Heart Seminary and Rev. Sisters from Mariam Thresia Bhavan (Insertion Community) Velachery assist for Pastoral Ministry.
Syro Malabar CHURCH : OIRIGIN & HISTORY
The Syro Malabar Church is an Oriental (Eastern Rite) Catholic Church, in full communion with the Church of Rome. The Apostles went around the world and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to different ethnic groups and cultures. Those people understood the Gospel values with different cultural interpretations. They expressed their faith through celebrations in different styles, languages & cultures. Thus different liturgies were formed and developed in the East which are liked in 5 fundamental families, namely: Alexandrian, Antiochean, Armenian, Chaldean and Byzantine. And there are many different filial churches in each family. And latin liturgy was developed in the west. The Church made its distinction of East and West depending upon the 2 capitals of the Great Roman Empire. All the churches which came under the capital city of Rome were called the western churches and all the churches which came under the capital city of Constantinople (Bizantium) were called Eastern Churches. And Syro Malabar rite is an Eastern Church. The term Syro Malabar is a reference to east Syrian (Chaldean) tradition, the church has followed and to the Malabar coast where St.Thomas Landed.
The Syro Malabar Church with its deep- rooted Spirituality and high rate of vocations is considered the most vibrant Catholic Church in the world, and has a strength over 3.8 million belivers. It is the second largest of the 21 Oriental Catholic Churches, the largest being Ukranian Church with Strength of about 4.5 million believers.
The history of Syro Malabar Church starts with St.Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. It is believed that he came to India in 52 AD and landed at Kodungallur on the Kerala Coast. He preached the Gospel to the high Caste families of Kerala, many of whom received the faith. He established Christian pockets in Seven places viz. Kodungallur, Palayur, Kottakav, Kokkamangalam, Niranam, Kollam and Nilakkal. Then he moved on to the East Coast of India. He was martyred near Little Mount (Chinnamala) Madras and the body was brought to Mylapore (Near Madras) and was buried there. St.Thomas Christians were developed into an indigenous individual Church until the 4th century connection to the East Syrian Church (Chaldean) was established after the arrival of another Thomas and several families from Cana (Knai Thomman) in the 4th Century.
The special feature of St.Thomas Christians is that they followed the liturgy of the Syrian Churches of Eastern rites. They were having hierarchical relationship with the East Syrian church and kept up their own administrative system. A Local priest leader called the Archdeacon was the head of the community. He had wide ranging powers. The bishops who came from the East Syrian Church were concerned with purely spiritual affairs. Their realm was exclusively spiritual. In other words, Thomas Christians followed three distinct ways of activities in their religious sphere their liturgy was of East Syrian Church, their culture was purely Indian. They had their own style of life; austere and humble way of life with high thinking; their governance of church was through Palliyogam, synod etc as is prevalent today in Oriental Churches.
With the arrival of the Portuguese explores, Vasco De Gama to Calicut on the Keral Coast in 1498, a Latin Connection began to take shape. The Portuguese were happy to discover the St.Thomas Christians on the west coast of India, but when they began to interfere under the Padroado agreement with the Holy see that the thing took a turn for the worse. They did not like their connection to East Syrian Church. Pointing out some expressions in their liturgical texts, the Portugese alleged that St.Thomas Christians believed in the Nestorian heresy and they burned their liturgical Texts and Vestments. They wanted to introduce the Latin Customs and Latin manner of ecclesiastical administration which sowed the seeds of disunity and division in the Indian church which led to further divisions and disunity and as a result the once united Indian Church, the Church that was in full Communion with the fee of Peter ended up in various denominations.
Portugese started a Latin diocese in Goa (1534) and another at cochin (1558) in the hope of brigning the Thomas Christians under their jurisdiction. In a Goan synod held in 1585 it was decided to introduce the Latin Liturgy and practices among the Thomas Christians. In the synod of Diamper of 1599 the Portuguese Archbishop, Don Alexs Menezes succeeded in appointing a Latin bishop to govern the Thomas Christians. The Portuguese Padroado was extended over them. The Portuguese refused to accept the legitimate authority of the Indian hierarchy and its relation with East Syrians and at a Synod held in Diamper (Udayampesur) in 1599, the Portuguese Archbishop of Goa imposed a large number of Latinizations. And thus brought an end to the connection between St.Thomas Christians and East Syrian Church. St.Thomas Christian Church, thus became a colonial church of the Portugese. From 1599 up to 1896 they were under Latin Bishops who were appointed either by the propaganda fide. Every attempt to resist the latinization process was branded by them heretical. Under the indigenous leader, archdeacon, the Thomas Christians resisted, but the result was disastrous. The several years of Latinization got on culmination in 1653 by famous Koonan Cross oath at the Church of Our Lady of Life at Mattanchery under the leadership of archdeacon Thomas.
The crowd gathered there took an oath that they would not be subject to the Portuguese Archbishop of Goa, Francis Gracia. This revolt eventually split the church into two , one group continued the recognise the prelates appointed by Rome and the other broke away from Rome and joined the west Syrian Jacobite Church of Antioch. This group came to be known as the Jacobites (Puthankootukar) or Syrian Orthodox Church of India.
After the Coonan oath, Rome began to take an active interest in the Kerala Christians. Several Carmelite monks were sent to kerala and Carmelite vicar apostolic were residing at varapuzha. Also, the Portuguese nominated administrators or archbishops for Malabar who were stationed at Kodungallur. This dual jurisdiction also was cause for complaints to Rome. In 1784, representatives from 84 churches assembled in Angamaly and drew up a document called Angamally Padiyola which made a strong demand to Rome for native bishops, citing the sins of omission and commission of foreign missionaries. In 1861, the arrival of a Chaldean Catholic bishop Thomas Rokkos sent by the Chaldean patriarch created more problems. He was excommunicated on his arrival by the vicar apostolic of varapuzha, and a schism followed. Another Chaldean bishop, elias melus arrived in 1874 and he too met the same fate. The Syrian Christians, popularly known as the Surais, in and around thrissur who are allegiance to the Syrian Nestorian patriacrch are the followers of the schism Melus created.
Finally in 1887 Pope Leo XII decreed the separation of Rite of St.Thomas Catholics from that fo the Latins. Two vicariates apostolic (a bishop like) at thrissur and Kottayam with two Latin Bishops, Adolf Medlycott and Charles Levigne were elected. Continued pleas for native bishops resulted in Pope Pius IXth decree in 1896 for the erection of three vicariates (dioceses like) for St.Thomas Catholics: Thrissur, Ernakulam and Changanassery under the Indian Bishops John Menachery, Louis Pazheparambil and Mathew Makil respectively. In 1911, Pope Pius X erected a fourth vicariate at Kottayam for the Southists or Knanites, who claim to be descendents of East Syrian Christians who migrated from Persia along with Knai Thomman.
But this dynamic church’s operations were limited to a very small territory between two rivers; namely Pambayar and Bharatha Pazha. We were not allowed to do Mission work in our own Rite. Those who wanted, had to adopt the Latin Rite. Only in 1952, the late Cardinal Tisserant, perfect of the Oriental Congregation, who studied our history and knew the beauty of our church, recommended to the Holy Father to remove those barriers. Then Pope Pius XII extended our proper territory to Malabar, Mysore, Nilgiris and Trivandrum and established the diocese of Tellicherry for the migrants from the South. And it was a mile stone in the progress of our church. On October 18th 1990 the code of canon law for the Oriental Churches was promulgated in Rome. After repeated memorandums by the Syro Malabar Bishops conference, his Holiness Pope John Paul II raised our church on May 20th, 1993 to the status of a Major Archiepiscopal Church which is next only to a Patriarchal Church in rank and appointed Mar Antony Cardinal Padiyara, our first Major Archbishop, Mar Abraham Kattumana, its pontifical Administrator. Today, the Syro Malabar Church is a Sui Suris Particular Church, headed by his Eminence Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, the 2nd Major Archbishop. It has including 5 Archdiocese altogether 29 dioceses.
The main teachings of the Vatican II on Eastern Churches:
a) “All the members of the Eastern Rites should know and be convinced that they can and should always preserve the legitimate liturgical Rite and their established way of life, and that these may not be altered except to obtain for themselves an organic improvement. All these things ;must be observed by the members of the Eastern Rites themselves”. ( Vatican II, Orientalium Ecclesiarum: #6 ).
b) “Each and every Catholic (of Eastern Rites) must retain, each his own Rite wherever he is, and follow it to the best of his ability”.( #4 )
c) “Those individual Churches of East or West are..of equal rank so that none of them is superior to others because of its Rite”. ( #3 )
d) “All members of the Eastern Churches are to aim always at a more perfect knowledge and practice of their Rites and if they have fallen away due to the circumstances of times and persons, they are to strive to return to their ancestral traditions.” ( #6 ) Based on the document of the Vatican II and Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II_ The Light of the East, the National Conference of the Catholic Bishops Committee published a document which is called Eastern Catholics in USA. This document tries to promote a greater understanding of the experience of the Eastern and Latin Catholic Churches and their relationships. It teaches the following “It is not possible simply to be a Catholic , a member at large of the Universal Catholic Church. A person is always a member of a specific autonomous ritual Church (eg.Syro Malabar Rite ) and only as such a person a member of the Catholic Church” (US Catholic Bishops, Eastern Catholics in USA.p.24)
“A person, no matter by whom or where , or in what liturgical ceremony he or she is baptized, belongs to the autonomous ritual Church, to which he or she should belong in accordance with the norms of the law”. ( Cannons 29-30 of the Cannons of the Eastern Churches ).
By virtue of baptism, a child becomes a member of his/her father’s Rite. There is no choice. But a person of fourteen years of age or older, who requests baptism, is free to choose any Church. So it is very necessary to take membership in a parish or quasi parish or Mission of the Syro Malabar Church where it is available to become a member in the Catholic Church. The Holy Father Pope John Paul II has erected a new Syro Malabar Catholic Diocese centered in Chicago with Jurisdiction over the entire United States. The Holy Father appointed Mar Jacob Angadiath as its first Bishop. He is also appointed as the permanent Apostolic Visitator to Canada. This newly erected St.Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago is the twenty fifth Syro Malabar Catholic Diocese. The establishment of this new diocese is a mark of appreciation and recognition by the Holy See of the entire Syro Malabar Community’s contribution to the Church and to the world.
The Syro Malabar Church kept the liturgy that was in use before the arrival of the Portuguese, but increasingly Latinized it. The St. Thomas Christians especially the Syro Malabar Church in India were under the hierarchy of the Latin Church from 1600 to 1896. Since the beginning, Syro Malabar liturgy was in Syriac and went through Latinization like many other churches in the 16th century. The vestments, the church furnishings, the place of certain prayer formulas in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, etc. were thoroughly Latinized while the liturgy continued in Syriac. Syriac language which was used in church worship until 1968.In the second half of 20th century, there was a movement for better understanding of the liturgical rites. A restored eucharistic liturgy, drawing on the original East Syrian sources, was approved by Pope Pius XII in 1957 and for the first time on the feast of St. Thomas on July 3, 1962, the vernacular, Malayalam was introduced for the celebration of the Syro Malabar rite Mass.
PARISHES IN CHENNAI:
St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Ayanavaram
No.16, Ayanavaram Road, Ayanavaram, Chennai-600 023, Ph.044-26443803
Holy Cross Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Mugappair
No. 7, Perumal Nagar , Mugappair, Chennai-600 037, Ph. 044-26562500
St. Sebastian’s Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Ottery
No.27/30, Bashyam Reddy 2nd Street, Ottery, Chennai-600 012. Ph. 044-26620492
St. Peter’s Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Avadi
Muthapudupet, IAF. Avadi, Chennai-600 055.Ph. 044-26841058
St. George’s Syro- Malabar Catholic Church, Eranavoor
No.56/22B, Brindavan Nagar, Eranavoor, Chnnai-600 057. Ph.044-25738199
St. Joseph’s Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Perambur
No.39, M.H. Road, Perambur, Chennai-600 011. Ph.044-25592081
Divine Mercy Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Ambattur
No. 357, MTH Road, Ambattur , Chennai-600 053. Ph.044-26253952
St. Alphonsa’s Syro Malabar Catholic Parish, Kodambakkam
17/28 Ramesh Nagar, 3rd Cross Street,Valsaravakkam,
Nithya Sahaya Matha Syro Malabar Catholic Parish, Roypettah
6/21, K.M. Street, R. A. Puram, Chennai-600 028
St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Parish, Little Mount
St. Mary’s Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Athipet
No.3,St.Mary’s Street, Kalaivanar Nagar, Athipet,
Christ the King Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Poonamallee
Kumananchavadi, Poonamallee, Chennai-600 056. Ph. 044-26272615
Bl. Kuriakose Elias Chavara Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Egmore
Rajagiri Bhavan, CMI House, G.D. Rajagiri Residency,
30/125 Marshal Road, Egmore, Chennai-600 008.Ph.044-28554359
Sacred Heart Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Keelkattalai
Thiruvalluvar Nagar Main Road, Keelkattalai, Chennai-600 117. Ph.044-22474243
St. Antony’s Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Gowrivakkam
Holy Family Convent, No.5, SIVET College Road, Velachery Main Road, Gowrivakkam, Chennai-600 073, Ph.044-22780996
St. Camillus Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Neelankarai
7th Street, Rajendra Nagar, Vaidhyalinga Salai, Neelankarai,
Chennai-600 041, Ph.044-24496199
Infant Jesus Syro Malabar Catholic Community, Pattabiram
141/1, Chinnamman Koil Street, Cement Road, Avadi, Chennai – 600 054
Divine Mercy Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Elavoor
Divine Mercy Nagar, Elavoor, P.O. Gumidipundi, Thiruvallur Dt., TN-601 201
St.Alphonsa Syro Malabar Catholic Parish, Pozhichallur
6/237, 3rd Street, Venkiteswaranagar, Pozhichallur, Chennai – 600 074
Mother Teresa Syro Malabar Church, Velachery
St.Paul’s Marthoma Church Hall, #3/B, Park Avenue 3rd Street, Nehru Nagar, Velachery
Opp.Perungudi MRTS Railway Station)
St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church,
Little Mount, Chennai.
Phone: + 91-9790914690 (Mobile)
For more information please contact: http://www.syromalabarchurchlittlemount.com